Pols 552 Political Theory Instructor: Assist. Prof. Dr. Volkan Çıdam



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Pols 552 Political Theory

Instructor: Assist. Prof. Dr. Volkan Çıdam

Political Theory is a critical practice. Precisely for this reason in this contemporary political theory course we will focus on the notion of critique. In its everyday usage the word “critique” is understood as a (often negative) value judgment on a social matter: It is human-beings and their works that are criticized and not other natural beings or occurrences. In modern philosophy, by contrast, the word critique immediately calls to mind the transcendental philosophy of Kant and is not necessarily associated with value judgments. To put it differently, a critique of pure reason in Kantian sense is not an inquiry involving value judgments; it is instead a descriptive endeavor. Kant uses the term in its original descriptive meaning, while giving it a self-reflective, transcendental turn. Critique is derived from the Greek word kritikos, which in return comes from the verb krino, meaning to differentiate / to put apart / to explain, but also, to choose / to decide / to conclude as well as to judge. It is etymologically related to the word krisis, which originally has a specific medical meaning: A turning point of an illness for the better or the worse. Only in contemporary social and political theory the word critique encompasses all of the above-mentioned meanings. Critique in this sense involves value judgments and self-reflection on the part of the thinker. Because it must begin by clarifying the problems at hand, critique is not only normative but also descriptive. Finally critique is practical; it strives for a timely diagnosis of the social and political problems and understands itself as a social force in times of crisis.

In this course we will examine alternative traditions of critical thought in contemporary political theory. These traditions include, approaches derived from Aristotelian virtue-ethics and / or from Aristotle’s conception of politics, (Aristoteles, McIntyre, Arendt), normative approaches (Kant, Rawls, Habermas), utilitarianism (Bentham, Mill, Singer), ideology critique (Marx, Althusser), immanent critique (Hegel / Marx, Habermas / Honneth), philosophical hermeneutics (Gadamer, Walzer) and forms of negativistic critique (Nietzsche, Adorno, Foucault). While engaging with these alternative traditions, we will ask a series of questions: What is the relationship between social diagnostic and critique? In what sense can the critique of existing social and political relations hold the key for a potential transformation of society? What are the criteria for social and political critique that enable the social thinker to judge an existing social situation as wrong, bad, deficient etc.? What are the justifications for a given set of criteria utilized by the thinker? Finally, what is the standpoint of the thinker, who engages in a critique? Does critique necessitate proximity or distance to the subject matter?

INSTRUCTOR: Asst. Prof. Dr. Volkan Çıdam

volkan.cidam@boun.edu.tr

Tel: 0532 4039084


COURSE HOURS: Thursday (14:00-17:00)

OFFICE HOURS: Tuesday (13:00-14:00) and by appointment




  • GRADING: - Three response papers (%20 each)

- A short presentation and paper (%30

- Participation (%10)


This is a reading intensive course, as well as a course that relies heavily on your oral and written participation. I will not give any lectures. The Course readings MUST be read by all in order that we have a productive discussion in class.
A response paper should be 4-5 pages (1,5 lines spacing, 12 pts font), including your personal and comprehensive evaluation of a specific and central issue that is analyzed in the readings of the specified weeks. Late papers will be penalized by -5 points (out of 20 points for each paper) and plagiarism leads to 0 points from that paper.
You have to chose your topic of presentation by 2nd Week. A presentation is about 15 to 20 minutes long and is designed to introduce the class for the week’s discussion. The presentation-paper should be 8-10 pages (1,5 lines spacing, 12 pts font), including a summary of the assigned texts and should raise the central questions that are discussed in class.
Academic Honesty
The Department of Political Science and International Relations at Boğaziçi University has the following rules and regulations regarding academic honesty.

  1. Copying work from others or giving and receiving answers/information during exams either in written or oral form constitutes cheating.

  2. Submitting take-home exams and papers of others as your own, using sentences or paragraphs from another author without the proper acknowledgement of the original author, insufficient acknowledgement of the consulted works in the bibliography, all constitute plagiarism. For further guidelines, you can consult http://web.gc.cuny.edu/provost/pdf/AvoidingPlagiarism.pdf

  3. Plagiarism and cheating are serious offenses and will result in:

  1. an automatic “F” for the assignment or the exam

  2. an oral explanation before the Departmental Ethics Committee

  3. losing the opportunity to request and receive any references from the
    entire faculty

  4. losing the opportunity to apply in exchange programs

  5. losing the prospects of becoming a student assistant or a graduate assistant in the department

The students may further be sent to the University Ethics committee or be subject to disciplinary action.

Lecture Program and Readings:

  • Week 1 Introduction



  • Week 2 Theory and Critical Praxis: Past and Present

  1. Kauppinen, Antti (2002), “Reason, Recognition, and Internal Critique”, Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy, 45:4, p. 479-498

  2. Honneth, Axel (2009), “Reconstructive Social Criticism with a Genealogical Proviso”, in Pathologies of Reason, Columbia University Press, p. 43-53

Part I Aristotelian Tradition: Our Virtues

  • Week 3 The Human Good and the Good Society



  1. Aristotle (1980), “Book I”, in The Nicomachean ethics / Aristotle ; translated with an introd. by David Ross ; rev. by J. O. Urmson, Oxford University Press, p. 3-22

  2. Nussbaum, Martha C. (1999), “Virtue Ethics: A misleading Category?”, in The Journal of Ethics, Vol. 3, No. 3, p. 163-201

  3. MacIntyre, Alaisdair (2007), After Virtue, The University of Notre Dame Press, p. 1-5, 51-78 and 109-120



  • Week 4 Virtue Ethics and Social Critique



  1. Aristotle (1980), “Book II and selections from Book V”, in The Nicomachean ethics / Aristotle ; translated with an introd. by David Ross ; rev. by J. O. Urmson, Oxford University Press, p. 23-37 and 80-93

  2. MacIntyre, Alaisdair (2007), After Virtue, The University of Notre Dame Press, p. 146-164, 181-226 and 244-263



  • Week 5 Between the Acts: Practical Wisdom and Politics



  1. Aristotle (1980), “Book VI”, in The Nicomachean ethics / Aristotle ; translated with an introd. by David Ross ; rev. by J. O. Urmson, Oxford University Press, p. 102-117

  2. Arendt, Hannah (1998), The Human Condition, The University of Chicago, p. 22-37, 50-58, 175-181, 188-199

  3. Benhabib, Seyla (2003), “The Art of Making and Subverting Distinctions: With Arendt, Contra Arend”, in Reluctant Modernism of Hannah Arendt, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc, p. 123-171

Paper No.1 Due

Part II Kantian Tradition: Justice and Justification



  1. Kant, Immanuel (2002), “Preface” and “Chapter I” and “Chapter II” Selections from in Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals, Routledge, p. 19-36 and 42-50

  2. Rawls, John (1999), “The main Idea of the Theory of Justice”, “The Original Position and Justification” and “Two principles of Justice” in A Theory of Justice, Oxford University Press, p. 10-19 and 52-57

  3. Rawls, John (1996), “Lecture I Fundamental Ideas”, in Political Liberalism, Columbia University Press, p. 3-46

Further Reading:

Gutmann, Amy (2003), “Rawls on the Relationship between Liberalism and Democracy”, in The Cambridge Companion to Rawls, Cambridge University Press, 168-199





  • Week 7 Deliberative Procedure as the Standard of Critique in Complex Societies



  1. Kant, Immanuel (2002), Selections from “Chapter II” in Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals, Routledge, p. 50-67

  2. Habermas, Jürgen (1999), “Three Normative Models of Democracy”, in The Inclusion of the Other. Studies in Political Theory, p. 239-252

  3. Habermas, Jürgen (2001) Selections from Between Facts and Norms. Contributions to a Discourse Theory of Law and Democracy, MIT Press, p. 89-94, 99-131, 151-168 and 359-379

Further Reading:

McCarthy, Thomas (1994), “Kantian Constructivism and Reconstructivism: Rawls and Habermas in Dialogue”, Vol. 105, No. 1, p. 44-63



Part III Hegelian Tradition: The Rational is (not yet) real

  • Week 8 Ethical Life and its Fragmentation



  1. Hegel, G.W.F. (1961), Selections from “The Positivity of the Christian Religion”, in T.M. Knox and R. Kroner (ed.) Early Theological Writings by Friedrich Hegel, Harper Torchbooks, p. 135-164

  2. Hegel, G.W.F. (1995), Selections from the Chapter on Kant, Lectures on the History of Philosophy. Volume 3, University of Nebraska Press, p. 457- 464

  3. Hegel, G.W.F. (2003), Selections from the Elements of the Philosophy of Right, Allen W. Wood (ed.), Cambridge University Press p. 189-198 (§§142-157) and p. 219-233 (§§181-198)

  4. Honneth, Axel (2014), “Introduction: A Theory of Justice as an Analyses of Society”, “Social Freedom and the Doctrine of Ethical Life” and “Transition: The Idea of Democratic Ethical Life” in Freedom’s Right: The Social Foundations of Democratic Life, Columbia University Press, p. 1-11 and 42-68



  • Week 9 Master and Slave Dialectics



  1. Hegel, G.W.F. (1977), “Independence and Dependence of Self-Consciousness: Lordship and Bondage”, in Phenomenology of Spirit, Oxford University Press, pp. 111-119 (§§ 178-196)

  2. Marx, Karl (1992), “‘Estranged Labour’ in: Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts (1844)”, in: Early Writings, Rodney Livingstone (Ed.), Penguin Books p. 322-334

  3. Kojève Alexandre (1980), Selections from “Summary of the First six chapters of the Phenomenology of Spirit” in Allan Bloom (ed.), Introduction to the Reading of Hegel, Agora Paperback Editions, p. 31-53

  4. Gadamer, Hans Georg (1976), “Hegel’s Dialectic of Self Consciousness” in Hegel”s Dialectic. Five Hermeneutical Studies, Yale University Press, p. 54-74

Further Reading

  1. Honneth, Axel (1995), “Traces of a Tradition in Social Philosophy: Marx, Sorel, Sartre” and “Disrespect and Resistance: The Moral Logic of Social Conflicts” in Struggle for Recognition. The Moral Grammar of Social Conflicts, MIT Press, p. 145-170



  • Week 10 Forms of Left- and Right Wing Immanent Critique



  1. Marx, Karl (1982), Selections from, Capital Vol. 1, Penguin Books, p. 247-257, 266-280, 283-306 and 340-344

  2. Jaeggi, Rahel (2009), "Re-Thinking Ideology", in: New Waves in Political Philosophy, Christopher Zurn/Boujdewijn de Bruijn (Ed.), Palgrave Macmillan, p. 63-86

  3. Walzer, Michael (1985), “The Practice of Social Criticism” in Interpretation and Social Criticism. The Tanner Lectures on Human Values, delivered at Harvard University, p. 30-57

Further Reading:

Heinrich, Michael (2012), “The Object of Critique in the Critique of Political Economy” and “Capital, Surplus Value, and Exploitation”, in An Introduction to the Three Volumes of Karl Marx’s Capital, Monthly Review Press, p. 29-38 and 81-98



Paper No.2 Due

  • Week 11 Critical Theory: From Hegel back to Kant?



  1. Horkheimer, Max [1931] (1993), “The Present Situation of Social Philosophy and the Tasks of an Instıtute for Social Research” in Between Philosophy and Social Science. Selected Early Writings Max Horkheimer, MIT Press, p. 1-14

  2. Horkheimer, Max [1941] (1982), “The End of Reason”, in Andrew Arato and Eike Gebhardt (ed.) The Essential Frankfurt School Reader, Continuum Publishing Company, p. 26-48

  3. Adorno, Theodor W. (1989), „The Culture Industry Reconsidered”, in Stephan Eric Bronner and Douglas MacKay Kellner (ed.) Critical Theory and Society: a reader, Routledge, p. 128-136

  4. Benhabib, Seyla (1986), “Chapter Five: The Critique of Instrumental Reason” in Critique, Norm, and Utopia, Columbia University Press, p. 147-185

Part IV Nietzschean Tradition: Not this way

  • Week 12 Genealogy as Critique



  1. Nietzsche, Friedrich (1997), ‘On the Genealogy of Morality’ and other Writings (Selections From), Keith Ansell-Pearson (ed.), Cambridge University Press, p. 3-67 and 116-120.

  2. Saar, Martin (2008), “Understanding Genealogy: History, Power and the Self”, Journal of the Philosophy of History 2, p. 295-314

Further Reading:

Nehemas, Alexander (1996), “Nietzsche, Modernity, aestheticism” in Bernd Magnus and Kathleen Higgins (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Nietzsche, p. 223-251



  • Week 13 Negation as Critique of Power and Conclusion



  1. Foucault, Michel (1981) Omnes et singulatim: towards a criticism of ‘political reason’, in: S. McMurrin (ed.), The Tanner Lectures on Human Values, vol. 2, University of Utah Press, pp. 225-54.

  2. Lemke, Thomas (2000), “Foucault, Governmentality and Critique”, Paper presented at Rethinking Marxism Conference, University of Amherst, p. 1-17

  3. Foucault, Michel (2002), “What is Critique?”, in David Ingram (ed.), The Political, Blackwell Publishers, p. 191-211

  4. Butler, Judith (2002), “What is Critique? An Essay on Foucault’s Virtue”, in David Ingram (ed.), The Political, Blackwell Publishers, p. 212-228

Paper No.3 Due


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